The Army of Amazons

Midtowng has another history lesson in nonviolent economic resistance from the US' past:

On a cold Sunday morning, December 11, 1921, in the tiny frontier town of Franklin, Kansas, five hundred women
crowded into a church hall. Men were excluded. They were mostly
immigrants from eastern Europe. They were hungry, angry, and desperate.
After a heated discussion they resolved on a course of action – they
would march.

By the following day women from miles around had come
to join them. Their numbers swelled to somewhere between 3,000 and
6,000. Some marched while carrying infants in their arms. The local
sheriff and his deputies was overwhelmed.

By December 15th the Governor of Kansas had sent in three companies of
cavalry and a machine gun company, to stop the "Army of Amazons", as
the newspapers had dubbed them.

You can find the rest of the article at The Economic Populist.

Avatar, District 9 & White Liberation Fantasies

[NOTE: I haven't seen Avatar, though being a fan of Aliens and some of James Cameron's other work (the less about True Lies the better), I am inclined to do so.  Still, spoiler warning if you haven't seen either Avatar or District 9.]

Annalee Newitz of Io9 hits the analysis on the head when she critiques Avatar as just the latest scifi rehash of an old white guilt fantasy.  From the previews I have seen, her take looks spot on.

She goes on to talk about white privilege and makes a good connection with the situation of Wikus in District 9:

Think of it this way. Avatar is a fantasy about ceasing to be
white, giving up the old human meatsack to join the blue people, but
never losing white privilege. Jake never really knows what it's like to
be a Na'vi because he always has the option to switch back into human
mode. Interestingly, Wikus in District 9 learns a very
different lesson. He's becoming alien and he can't go back. He has no
other choice but to live in the slums and eat catfood. And guess what?
He really hates it. He helps his alien buddy to escape Earth solely
because he's hoping the guy will come back in a few years with a "cure"
for his alienness. When whites fantasize about becoming other races,
it's only fun if they can blithely ignore the fundamental experience of
being an oppressed racial group. Which is that you are oppressed, and
nobody will let you be a leader of anything.

She concludes with:

Whites need to stop remaking the white guilt story, which is a sneaky
way of turning every story about people of color into a story about
being white. Speaking as a white person, I don't need to hear more
about my own racial experience. I'd like to watch some movies about
people of color (ahem, aliens), from the perspective of that group,
without injecting a random white (erm, human) character to explain
everything to me. Science fiction is exciting because it promises to
show the world and the universe from perspectives radically unlike what
we've seen before. But until white people stop making movies like Avatar, I fear that I'm doomed to see the same old story again and again.

Praise Be!

Just saying: two months’ Pentagon spending could end official poverty

In Doug Henwood's latest Radio Commentary, he states:

On that point, a reminder of how little it would take to end poverty
in the USA. The so-called poverty gap, the amount of money necessary to
bring everyone whose household income is below the offical poverty line
up to that line, was about $138 billion in 2008, less than 1% of GDP.
Or, to put it more bluntly, about what the Pentagon spends in two
months. Or 3% of the total income of the richest fifth of American
households. Or roughly what we spent bailing out AIG. But Wall Street
and the war machine really need the money, you see.

Of course the official poverty level is far too low, as many, including Doug, have pointed out, but it would be a start.

Mass. US Senate Election: Debates will be open

Voters cannot make an educated choice if they don't have information about the candidates.  Thankfully, according to MassLive, all candidates on the general election ballot for the special election for Massachusetts' US Senate seat will be allowed to participate in all debates.

According to the MassLive article:

"Brown, Coakley and Kennedy will face off in the first televised debate on Tuesday. The debate will be taped, and is scheduled to be aired on WBZ-TV Channel 4 in Boston from 8 to 9 a.m. on Dec. 27 and on WSBK-TV Channel 38 in Boston from 7 to 8 p.m. on Dec. 28.

Brown and Kennedy also have confirmed they will attend a debate on Jan. 8 in Springfield sponsored by WGBY-TV Channel 57. Coakley, who grew up in North Adams, is also expected to attend.
The debate in Springfield is scheduled to be taped and then aired from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Jan. 8."

Democracy takes one small step further.

Will Greece be the next sovereign default?

Midtowng over at The Economic Populist has a short and useful post on why Athens may default on its debts: "Five Minutes to Midnight" in Athens.  Greece is in recession, and if it balances its budget, it will likely cause it to drop into a depression.  Since it is part of the Euro, it cannot devalue its currency as a way of dealing with its crisis.

Greece has been dealing with civil unrest that started over a year ago and led to the electoral defeat of the previous conservative government.  Costas Panayotakis has one take on it and sums up the motivations of the many youthful protesters thus:

the rage of the protestors is also a feeling that today's Greek youth
will be the first generation not to live better than their parents.
Fueling this feeling are high unemployment rates, low salaries that do
not keep up with the rising cost of living, high levels of poverty (one
out of five Greeks is poor), growing household indebtedness, and
"flexible" labor relations that consign many young people to insecure,
temporary positions. This situation is partly the result of the
commitment of conservatives and Socialists alike to the European Union
and its insistence that inflation and deficits be kept low, even at the
cost of chronically high unemployment rates."

Chris Spannos posted some pictures and background on some of the more recent demonstrations, such as those by students, pensioners and public workers.

Rich countries working on secret climate treaty that favors them

The US, UK and other rich countries are discussing a secret draft climate treaty for the UN Copenhagen climate talks.  Excluded from the discussion are developing countries, who were rightly upset.  The Guardian reported that the draft treaty would:

  • hand effective control of
    climate change finance to the World Bank;
  • would abandon the Kyoto protocol –
    the only legally binding treaty that the world has on emissions reductions;
  • would make any money to help poor countries adapt to climate change dependent
    on them taking a range of actions [forcing more privatizations so as to enrich they buyers?];
  • not allow poor countries to emit more than 1.44 tonnes of carbon per
    person by 2050, while allowing rich countries to emit 2.67 tonnes.

The last point is quite key since rich countries have produced the vast majority of CO2 emissions since 1900, as this graph at the World Resources Institute demonstrates:

A climate treaty that does not recognize that rich counties got us into this mess and need pay more to get us to climate stability, will not be accepted by developing countries.

Also, Naked Capitalism has a piece on the effectiveness of Cap and Trade solutions in reducing CO2 emissions.  It isn’t favorable.

Bad Joo Joo, No Biscuit!

The Crunch Pad is no more since, apparently, the company handling much of the technical work, Fusion Garage, broke its agreement with TechCrunch, the company handling the business side, and skipped with it.  Instead, Fusion Garage will be putting out the tablet computer and calling it the Joo Joo.  A rather unfortunate name for a product since it is far too easy to associate it with the phrase Bad JuJu, especially with the recent legal tanglings.

UPDATE: Fusion Garage's take on the split and Wired's review of the Joo Joo.

Bernanke Reloaded

I have wished to talk about Fed. Chairman Ben Bernanke's renomination and the quality of the job that the former Princeton Econ prof and expert on the economics of he Great Depression did, but since Doug Henwood, of Left Business Observer, sums up Chairman Ben's performance so well, I'll leave it to him:

Why is this guy getting reappointed? He let the bubble inflate,
dismissed worries about the dangers of subprime mortgages and
derivatives, said in mid-2008 that the recession was unlikely to get
too serious (just as it was about to get very serious)—and then, when
everything fell apart, set about writing big big big giant big checks
to Wall Street. Yes, in a financial crisis, it’s essential that a
central bank flood the system with money to keep things from imploding
utterly. But he’s done so without any clear strategy or accountability,
and absolutely no commitment to insuring that it doesn’t happen again.
Truly the American ruling class is a rotting social formation.

and later:

Fed chair Ben Bernanke was before the Senate just the other day urging
Congress to cut Medicare and Social Security. I suspect that the upper
reaches of American society are deeply interested in imposing an
austerity program on most of us in order to pay the bills for the
bailout and stimulus programs. It’s never too early to gear up for that

The rest of Doug's article is his assessment of the latest economic news and worth the read as it always is, even when I disagree, which is seldom.

Eight years later, using nonviolence in Afghanistan still looks like a good choice

In March of 2002, while running for Treasurer of the Commonwealth, I did a one day tour of the Fall River/New Bedford area including speaking engagements, radio appearances and an interview with the Herald News in Fall River.  I was aided by David Dionne, a great and tireless activist for social justice, peace, and the environment.  David had setup the whole day and first on the itinerary was the interview with the Herald News.

Now March, 2002 was about five months after the US invasion of Afghanistan and one of the reporter's first questions was what would be the Green Party's alternative to invading Afghanistan.  I stated that invading the country was the wrong approach and the US would have been better off in the long-term by building a nonviolent resistance movement to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda that sought the development and liberation of all of its citizens.

With President Obama's announcement that he will send an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan to join the 68,000 US soldiers, 43,000 NATO-ISAF soldiers, and 68,000 Pentagon contractors, the long-term has arrived.  When all is said and done, we are easily on track to have been there for a decade or more propping up a corrupt government run by warlords who share the Taliban's desire to keep women down. 

According to, a National Priorities Project, the US has spent $232 Billion funding military related operations in Afghanistan since our invasion in 2001.  This figure represents over $8,000 per Afghan citizen, or about $1000 a year for each person.  With Afghanistan's per capita yearly GDP at about $450, this amount would represent a tripling of the income of the average Afghan.  This figure is even more striking when you consider that we haven't delivered on the $5 Billion in aid we pledged to help Afghanistan rebuild.

We could have devoted a fraction of what our military has spent occupying Afghanistan on promoting economic development, education and health as well as building a native Afghan nonviolent resistance movement.  Would we have overthrown the Taliban by now?  Possibly.  People who have enough to eat, a job with a decent income and the ability to read have much more ability to organize and use nonviolent tactics to undermine the support of their leaders.  We forget when we judge the success of a nonviolent resistance that, after eight years of violent resistance to the Taliban, there is very real prospect that they may yet reestablish themselves as the rulers of Afghanistan.

By taking a long-term nonviolent approach, one that focused on economic development, education and improving the health of all Afghans, we would have left Afghanistan a far better place than we have so far.  Even if a nonviolent resistance movement had not succeed by now, it would have a good chance of succeeding in the future.  Obama's choice to double down on the Bush strategy doesn't look like its chance of success will be any better, but the cost in lives and debt will be immensely higher.